Alexis Sanchez scored one goal and set up another to make up for a moment of madness from teammate Olivier Giroud and help Arsenal beat Queens Park Rangers 2-1 in the Premier League on Friday. Sanchez had a penalty saved in the ninth minute at the Emirates Stadium but responded by heading Arsenal ahead in the 37th from Kieran Gibbs’ cross.
France striker Giroud received a straight red card in the 53rd for head-butting QPR defender Nedum Onuoha directly in front of the referee, jeopardizing Arsenal’s chances of three points in a game the hosts had controlled.
Yet Arsenal doubled the lead in the 65th when Sanchez went on a winding run before laying the ball off for Tomas Rosicky to side-foot home from inside the area. Charlie Austin smashed a penalty down the middle of the goal in the 79th to set up a frantic finish, but Arsenal held on and consigned QPR to a ninth straight away loss, equalling the Premier League record held by Bolton from the 1995-96 season.
Arsene Wenger’s 400th league win as Arsenal manager was more hard-earned than it should have been, and it was all down to Giroud’s recklessness.
The striker was bundled over by Onuoha on the edge of the area as they chased a long ball.
Giroud scrambled to his feet to confront Onuoha, pushing his forehead into the defender’s face. Onuoha fell to the ground and referee Martin Atkinson, who was right on the spot, brandished a red card.
“It was a deserved red card, Olivier didn’t control himself,” said Wenger, who stared at Giroud as he left the field. “It completely changed the dynamic of the game, we were completely in control at that stage and it was quite comfortable. Olivier is a guy who, when he makes mistakes, he stands up and admits it.”
Giroud will miss the next three games, and in the short term left Arsenal to play with 10 men for about 40 minutes at the start of a busy schedule of matches over the festive period.
Rosicky’s goal gave the home side crucial breathing space but QPR came close to an equalizer on a number of occasions, with Mathieu Flamini clearing the ball from near Arsenal’s line and QPR striker Bobby Zamora denied a penalty.
Sanchez, one of three Chileans on show with QPR’s Mauricio Isla and Eduardo Vargas, again stood out and he earned the penalty after being tripped by Armand Traore. Sanchez held onto the ball, Santi Cazorla, who scored from the spot against Newcastle this month, gave way, but his spot kick was weak and goalkeeper Robert Green got down to his left to make the save.
Sanchez makes amends
Sanchez made amends by guiding a cushioned header into the far corner for his 15th goal of the season in all competitions and his tireless work was crucial in the second goal scored by Rosicky, who was making his first start of the campaign.
“He is a guy full of confidence and playing with some real style,” Wenger said of Sanchez. “He worked tirelessly today in setting up one goal and scoring the other, so we can’t be too harsh on him for missing a penalty,” he added.